Commissioning: Past, Present, and Future

Building commissioning started out simply, a third-party verifier representing ownership to ensure HVAC systems were installed properly at the correct settings. As building systems evolved to more complex, integrated, whole building systems, commissioning has evolved too. Commissioning services can include all mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems, as well as smart technology. As the value of commissioning becomes more widely recognized, services will include building performance commissioned during the building’s operation.

Whole Building Commissioning (WBCx)

In the past, owners were only interested in the temperature control and lighting in buildings. Focus shifted to all MEPFp systems as high tech and efficient equipment became widely available. Today, with smart connectivity, owners are viewing the building as a whole, with integrated systems including the MEPFp systems, cellular, audio-visual, renewables, building envelope and air quality monitoring.

Building enclosure (envelope) commissioning (BECx) is the latest addition to the suite of services performed by commissioning agents. As commercial building codes become more stringent due to climate change goals, the building envelope is more critical in not only separating the outside from the inside, but providing a controlled barrier to outdoor unconditioned air and moisture as well as light. The building industry is becoming educated on testing methods of the building envelope. Innovative design uses natural lighting to its best advantage, resulting in an impressive rate of return on building enclosure upgrades. Stakeholders are recognizing the value of engaging a commissioning agent to support these high-performance goals.

Ongoing Commissioning (OCx)

Ongoing commissioning includes the continuous process of monitoring, diagnostics, maintenance and life cycle performance measures during the operation of the building. OCx agents are leveraging data analysis for fault detection and monitoring of equipment. Maintenance and equipment replacement are carefully planned to avoid outages or failure.

Cities around the country are setting climate change goals that include building performance standards. Stakeholders will be required to benchmark and maintain performance standard thresholds for the life of the building. OCx is vital to ensure operational integrity to align with the owner performance requirements (OPR) and compliance with regional building performance standards.

How to Engage in Commissioning

It is a good idea to get a Cx partner on board as soon as possible for existing buildings and new construction. Engaging the Cx agent in the predesign phase allows the Cx agent to assist the owner with developing the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). The objective of commissioning is to identify issues before they become problems. Waiting too long can result in costly design revisions to ensure equipment performance goals are met upon delivery. Twenty years ago, commissioning only included HVAC systems and sometimes lighting. A third-party Commissioning Agent was a hard sell because the HVAC contractor was expected to provide Cx services. Today, commissioning is more comprehensive to include not only the HVAC systems, but additional integrated building systems. A commissioning agent on the construction or building operations team is more common and often expected to meet local code requirements. Twenty years in the future, we will likely see commissioning of everything in the building, making the commissioning agent a standard team member. Don’t worry Albireo Energy has you covered, let’s talk.

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